Esprit De Corps 2014
1h 34min | Drama | 13 June 2015 (USA)
An adaptation of Auraeus Solito’s play entitled Esprit de Corps in the 1980’s about the game of seduction and ranks in the ROTC, It is a queer story of two cadets and their pursuit to outwit a corrupt Major Marcus for his position.
ESPRIT DE CORPS is a must-see film — if you get past the provocative posters and the homoerotic angles. Directed by the fantastic young personality formerly known as Aureus Solito, who shot to fame with the success of his indie ANG PAGDADALAGA NI MAXIMO OLIVEROS (2005, with 28 nominations from various bodies and 23 awards), Kanakan Balintagos examines life in the barracks while throwing in a whole lot of metaphysical and rhetorical questions.
Lt Mac Favila (JC Santos) is every cadet’s idol — he’s the epitome of machisimo, and many cadets aspire for his position. Especially two young friends — Private Abel Sarmiento (Sandino Martin, Best Actor awardee at the recent Cinema One Originals filmfest awards) and Private Cain Fujioka (Lharby Policarpio, a precious find). But beneath Favila’s macho bluster is a façade — and this façade, as it slowly unravels through flashbacks and fast- forwards, strips all three men down to their bare essentials.
The first 10-minute interrogation scene by Favila (of Sarmiento), very hardline and almost cruel, ends abruptly with an odd embrace — but you foresaw that with the kinds of movie posters the film had.
What makes a man? What lessens a man? What defines masculinity? What makes a man macho? Can a man surmount a sordid childhood past and come out a winner, or pathetic loser? Why do we hide beneath veneers of machisimo, bluster and braggadocio? Two male friends from childhood — how do you toe the line between friendliness and intimacy? A victim of sexual predation — will he repeat the vicious cycle with newer victims, instead of examining and solving his problem?
These are all questions that Balintagos takes time addressing and seemingly answering, with a poem about “The Kiss” figuring significantly in a subplot. However, some interesting characters disappear all too soon (like the “coño” cadet everyone makes fun of). Suffice it to say this film awakens many questions among the audiences (gay or not) — and the particular day that I watched, the last day actually, at Fairview Terraces, a female country-bumpkin type kept a running commentary (and extremely loud expressions of disgust at the male love scenes) with every scene, oblivious to the shusshing of the other irked audience members.
The three leads, relative newcomers, are well matched. (At the 2014 Cinema One Originals awards, Martin nabbed the Best Actor trophy, while Balintagos won as Best Director and production designer Endi Balbuena also won). The seduction scenes are tense and very loaded. Balintagos stages most of the film like it was a theater piece, which may or may not work for some viewers. For me, the tension, the staginess, the talkiness and the sleaziness (of some characters) all worked equally. Even the jerkiness of the sex scene between Policarpio and Santos had some quaint, if queer, charm to it. Whether a priest from your childhood molested you, or the much-revered Lt. blackmails you into sex, Balintagos underscores the accepted actuation that something in your past will determine who you are in the present, and how you deal with others. The conundrum of the film, and the lead characters, is whether there is redemption for the tainted men.
The three leads really impress, given that Policarpio makes his film debut while his costars have very few film credits — Martin appeared earlier this year in UNFRIEND and DAGITAB, and Santos appeared in the 2008 indie JAY (starring the “prince of indie films,” Coco Martin, with Baron Geisler) and this year’s THE JANITOR (starring Dennis Trillo, Derek Ramsay, Richard Gomez). Presumably all three are “straight,” and Balintagos masterfully directs them with very intricate character arcs, especially concerning sexual identity. Balintagos may or may not have undergone military training, but the way he wrote the screenplay, with a commandant figuring largely in the backstory of Favila (Commandant Abanilla is played with gusto by an amusing Garry Lim, while Sue Prado has a small scene, all too brief, as a nymph at film’s end, one more bizarre touch from Balintagos), the questions of sexual confusion, experimentation and liberation surface yet again and one definitely leaves the theater with a rattled mind. Kudos, Kanakan Balintagos!
Director: Auraeus Solito (as Kanakan Balintagos)
Writer: Auraeus Solito (as Kanakan Balintagos)
Stars: Sandino Martin, JC Santos, Lharby Policarpio
Language: Filipino | Tagalog
Release Date: 13 June 2015 (USA)
Also Known As: Abel/Cain
Format : Matroska
Format version : Version 4
File size : 2.90 GiB
Duration : 1 h 34 min
Overall bit rate : 4 372 kb/s